I have always been dedicated to working in the public interest field. Prior to attending NESL, I was a union organizer and representative for the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, Local 1445 and Service Employees International Union. I spent over five years helping workers organize unions in their workplace because they wanted to be treated with dignity and respect. I also helped workers negotiate contracts for better wages and work conditions.
When I entered law school, I knew I would continue to do public interest work when I graduated. The question was what type of law should I practice-labor and employment law, or another field of law where I would be able to make a difference.
Since becoming a law student, I have been extremely fortunate to have participated in several clinics as well as summer internships (both were paid, last summer thanks to a PILA grant.) My first year, I started volunteering for Shelter Legal Services which is a great opportunity to get a cross-section of various areas of law. The way the program works is that you are given your own clients. You receive guidance and help from the staff attorney as well as the other volunteers from all the local law schools. For the past two years I have volunteered at Shelter Legal Services and even had the opportunity to do a family law clinic with the organization. Without a doubt, the most exciting case I had was representing a client seeking political asylum before the U.S. Immigration Court at the JFK building in Boston. The best part is that we won-my client is able to stay in the United States and soon will be eligible to become a legal permanent resident.
During my three years at NESL, I have taken three clinics: Government Lawyer, Family Law Clinic & Criminal Procedure Clinic. They were all extremely different but were exciting. I gained valuable experience doing research, writing, interviewing clients and making bail arguments.
Last summer, I worked at the Rhode Island Public Defender's Office. I was assigned to work with a staff attorney as well as another New England School of Law intern in District Court. I was given my own cases that involved clients charged with various crimes such as disorderly conduct, driving with a suspended license and shoplifting. I met clients, discussed their cases and laid out their options which allowed the clients to make a decision on how to proceed. I also met with the prosecutors to negotiate pleas and proffered pleas before the judge. It was so exciting-being in court all the time, having a ton of pre-trial conferences and working with a great attorney and fellow New England School of Law intern.
I recommend that every New England School of Law student should take a clinic or do some type of volunteer work. It is amazing the things that you learn outside the classroom. For me, the best part has always been meeting and talking to clients. It really puts your life in prospective. All of my experiences have helped me decide that I would like to practice both criminal and immigration law. Specifically, I want to represent indigent immigrants in criminal matters and deportation proceedings.